Talking with ''Home Improvement'''s prince of backyard bonding

He’s one heck of a good neighbor — a kind of Mister Rogers-meets-Robert Bly. He’s Wilson, Tim Allen’s back-fence buddy on ABC’s hit comedy Home Improvement, and he knows everything about anything, from stringing snowshoes to ”journeying” for the perfect gift. The camera never shows us all of Earl Hindman’s face, but his booming bass and advanced problem-solving skills have made him TV’s favorite backyard guru. ”I’m becoming the best-known unknown actor,” Hindman admits in his husky, pack-a-day voice. Don’t get him wrong — he’s thrilled. ”I’ve done lots of Shakespeare for $75 a week,” says the 50ish actor, whose big break was a nine-year run as Bob Reid on Ryan’s Hope.

Hindman discovered acting during high school football practice in Tucson, Ariz., when the drama teacher came recruiting for a play. He tried out on a lark and scored the lead. He has performed ever since, including a stint in Missouri, where he met his wife, Molly, ”a Katie-bar-the-door in black leather” who’s now an Episcopal priest. True to his TV form, Hindman likes to stay home in Connecticut and do yard work. ”I’m not a go-to-Paris guy. Like Wilson, I’m a solitary camper.”

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